Fitness questions and answers for October 4, 2004

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens ( is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken ( is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his website.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt ( is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Maintaining aerobic fitness
Cycling during pregnancy
Comeback training and timing
Hand numbness and pain
More Achilles problems
Bike fit and pain
Fore/aft seat position revisited
Fit and muscle utilization
Hot feet
Knee problems


I am a 60 year old racer (weigh 160; 5' 10"). I am fairly strong (leg press 100 reps of 600 lbs), an OK sprinter, do better in crits, but weak in road races. When climbing, I am very strong on grades up to about 9%. When pitches get steeper, I quickly fall apart. Since I regularly get dropped on steep climbs, I never get to use my "strengths" on flatter climbs or in the final sprint. Is this something I have to live with, at this point in my life, or is there some training regimen I can focus on over the winter?

Louis Rossi

Dario Fredrick replies:

Yes, there are definitely training regimens you can follow over the winter to improve your climbing performance in races. I disagree with notion that a particular height/weight ratio predetermines whether you are a "sprinter," "rouler," or "climber" unless perhaps you are a world-class professional. Clearly, losing weight will reduce your resistance on climbs, but increasing power will also allow you to climb faster. Maximize your sustainable power for the particular race efforts in question, and regardless of reducing your weight your performance will improve.

Scott Saifer replies:

Does 9% happen to be the grade above which you stand or above which your cadence goes below about 70 rpm? If so the solution might be as simple as getting a bigger rear cog or a triple. Other than cadence changes, there's no physiological reason why a 9% grade should be any sort of threshold. Usually we think more about the length of a hill than it's grade when wondering if a particular rider will make it over the top with the bunch.

Maintaining aerobic fitness

I'm a 27 year old male Cat 2 road cyclist and during a typical training week would average between 300-450km depending on intensity levels and have been cycling for 2 years. I have just entered the transition phase of my year and am now starting to think about how I will plan out my training program for next season. Typically I would commence base training in mid November and continue this until March before starting to add in intensity sessions of varying difficulty. My key season races fall between late June and mid September (road races of between 160-230km) and I would typically plan my peak for mid September. For the upcoming season my race goals remain pretty much unchanged however I will be holidaying overseas with my family for approx 6 weeks through December and January and wont be able to do any cycling. As this is when I would typically get in a lot of good base miles I am considering how to best work around this schedule change. At the moment the best I can come up with is to start base training a month earlier that in previous years and whilst overseas try and get in a few 1 hour gym sessions each week of varying aerobic exercise in the hope that this will at least maintain some of my fitness. I would appreciate any comments/guidance on my plan to work around this time off the bike and if you have any suggestions on the type of aerobic exercise I should try and do over the 6 week period I would be appreciative.

Gerard Laismith

Dave Palese replies:

I think that your plan sounds like a good one. Get in the training while you can. During your holiday, try to work out aerobically 3-4 times a week using cross training of various types (running, hiking, mixed aerobic at the gym, and so on).

Cycling during pregnancy

I am an avid recreational cyclist in my early thirties and just became pregnant. I generally ride at a moderate pace 3-4 times a week (mountain, road, cross) and on Saturdays or Sundays like to do a longer ride of 3-5 hours, typically with a number of decent climbs therein. Can you advise on how much my cycling routine should be altered for a safe pregnancy? Obviously, cycling will become harder in the third trimester, but I have a number of months before I get there.

Jane Smith

Pam Hinton replies:

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that all women with uncomplicated pregnancies participate in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes most, if not all, days of the week. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the occurrence of physical complaints during pregnancy, improve mood, and shorten delivery time.


I was very intrigued by an article I saw in the last two issues of Bicycling magazine. It talked about a supplement called Corduzin and its aid in helping the body better use oxygen, among other things. It is develpoed and ditributed out of London, and is said to help many marathoners who are using it. It also states it is legal in every nation. This seems to good to be true. Do you guys know anything about this new supplement? And if you do, does it work and does it have any side affects?

Brandon Baker

Pam Hinton replies:

You're right. When an advertisement promises that a supplement, "strengthens and improves heart muscle and increases lung capacity" and "…is scientifically formulated to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels" because it "…allows the lungs to utilize oxygen more efficiently so you can go harder and last longer.". It is too good to be true.

Comeback training and timing

I want to train for racing again after a 6-year hiatus. Back in the "ol' days" I had plenty of time to train and far less responsibilities to work, family, etc... I wonder if you have any advice on serious training after a long break and tips on how to get a solid base in when time is of a premium. Thanks.

Jonathan Maus
Portland, OR

Dave Palese replies:

Welcome back!

Hand numbness and pain

I am 42 years old and have been riding and racing since I was 18. I am a physical therapist so have learned extensively about the human body. I don't race or train nearly as much as I used to due to family constraints, but recently have had to stop riding entirely due to the above problems. I ride 2-3 x per week either on or off-road and up to 100 miles/6 hours of riding. I was diagnosed about 10 years ago with a herniated disc which did not require surgery and thought at first these symptoms were a manifestation of this condition. However, my orthopedic surgeon ordered a nerve conduction which has diagnosed moderate to severe carpal tunnel syndrome.

An x-ray and MRI did demonstrate that I do have mild arthritis in my cervical spine, but my doctor did not seem concerned with how the pictures looked for my demographics. Simply placing my arms on my handlebars of either my mountain-bike or my road-bike cause an immediate onset and worsening of these symptoms. My question is can carpal tunnel syndrome manifest itself into arm-pit and scapular pain too? Or do I have a double problem involving my cervical-spine as well which places my doctor's opinion in doubt?


Steve Hogg replies:

Firstly I had better qualify what I am going to say with the caveat that I am not a health professional but have had extensive experience with on bike carpal tunnel syndrome. If bike riding has caused your issues the likely causes are:

More Achilles problems

I'm a 42 year-old cat IV male cyclist, 5'10", 155 lbs and I've been cycling for over 20 years, but only returned to racing last year. I'm currently using a structured training plan through with about 500 hours annually. I use Bebop pedals (a free-float design) with DMT Ultimax shoes, size 42 ( a little small, but I like a tight-fitting shoe). About two months ago, I began focusing on developing more power through an intense sprint workout. At about the same time I fitted my shoes with a pair of SOLE footbeds to address a problem I was having with with a hotspots. I began to "notice" my achilles tendons in both ankles -- no pain, I just found myself thinking about them. Gradually they became more and more noticeable. Four weeks ago, I was on a recreational ride up a 32K climb -- I forgot to change out my cassette, so I was stuck mashing a bigger-than-comfortable gear at low cadence for the duration. The next day my achilles tendons were screaming. I found the articles on achilles pain and cleat set-back, and I re-positioned the cleats so that the ball of my foot now falls about 5mm behind the pedal spindle. I have also removed the footbeds as I felt that my heels were not held securely due to the increased elevation.

The sharp pains have subsided; the pain I have now is sort of a gritty, burning sensation. It usually eases overnight, but returns after an hour or so of moving about in the morning. My riding is currently restricted to light spinning on the trainer for perhaps an hour max. I have also incorporated some light weight training including calf-presses (minimal weight) to help strengthen the area.

Should I be looking at ways to stabilize my ankle during riding? Perhaps a fixed or limited float pedal as opposed to the BeBops?

Greg Hyra
Poulsbo, Washington

Steve Hogg replies:

Move your cleats back another 4mm. Measure this so that the point where the sole of the shoe meets the upper underneath the centre of the heel and the point where the sole meets the upper above the pedal axle are level with each other. When you moved the cleat back to where you have it now, you lessened the load on the achilles tendon, but you have not got it back far enough yet. The DMT's you have should have ample further rearward adjustment unless you have unusually proportioned feet.

Greg responded:

Thanks for the speedy reply. I'm going to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist to work on recovery -- it looks like cyclocross is probably out for this year...

I am following your recommendation on additional setback, however I have some questions regarding other modifications to my position that may be necessary to compensate for the re-positioning of the cleat. Do you have any recommendations here?

Steve Hogg replies:

You have already moved your cleats back 5mm from your previous ball of foot over pedal axle position and I'm suggesting another 4mm of rearward movement. As far as seat height goes, you may need to drop your seat by 2 - 3 mm to compensate for the extra extension of the legs that the more rearward cleat positioning can cause. Ride the bike first though and be guided by feel. Often the cleat positioning that I have suggested causes a change in the range of ankle movement in the pedalling stroke. This in turn can mean that no seat height adjustment is necessary.

Greg responded:

My cleats are now a full 9mm back from their original position. The pain during riding has largely subsided, however I'm just spinning on the trainer to get a feeling for the new position and not applying any real load. I found it interesting that after I pushed the cleats back the first 5mm a few weeks ago, a chronic knot in my left calf disappeared... I'm hopeful that I'll be back on the road before too long.

Thank you very much for your help.

Steve Hogg replies:

Thanks for the feedback. If you keep your cleats where they are now, you are unlikely to have any ongoing Achilles tendon issues once you have recovered from the current episode. To have the ball of the foot over the pedal axle as is commonly recommended, can limit performance and increase the chance of avoidable injury in my experience. If you leave the cleats where they are now, once you get the hang of it, you will find a performance improvement as well as less chance of injury.

Bike fit and pain

I am having knee pain with my new road bike (Mercier Serpens). Some background:

I used toe clips for many years on my old bike (Dave Scott Ironman). It is 56cm. The only knee pain was from overuse (big gears, low cadence, high load).

Now have all new equipment: 61 cm frame, Shimano Ultegra pedals w/SPD-SL cleats, Lake CX220 shoes. Crank arm length old 172.5, new 175mm.

When I ride at my normal pace (16-18mph for 18 miles, mostly flat, some hills) I get pain around both knee caps the next day. This new setup with clipless pedals is killing me!

Present bike fit: Bottom of knee over pedal axle, seat height 29.75 in. (I am 6ft 2in), ball of foot over axle. I do not struggle against the floating cleat position which seems to be centered.

My question: Is my knee pain, which has appeared since starting to ride this new setup, caused by the longer crank arms, clipless vs toe straps, or my fit on this larger frame? I raised the saddle until I felt I was reaching at stroke bottom, then lowered it a bit. Is my knee angle now more severe with the longer crankarms, causing this problem?

Charles Engman

Steve Hogg replies:

It could be a number of things. It is unlikely that the rotational angle of the cleats is the issue, because if it was you would be feeling pain on one side or other of the knee. However, given how little rotational freeplay SPD-SL's have compared to many other systems, it would be worth revisiting the cleat angle.

Fore/aft seat position revisited

I have been following with great interest Steve Hogg's comments on pelvic stability and fore/aft seat position in recent Fitness Q&A responses. I have a question that relates to Steve's suggestion that the rider should move the seat fore/aft to a point where teeter balance is just obtained when removing the hands from the drops while pedalling hard. Steve states that this is designed to ensure passive pelvic stability, and I presume it is therefore a function of torso length and weight. Could Steve explain how this position will constantly generate a correct fore/aft seat position, regardless of femur length? Is femur length no longer considered a determining factor in setting optimal fore/aft saddle position (as per the knee-over-spindle method)? I understand and find convincing Steve's arguments relating to breathing and passive pelvic stability, but what impact on pedalling dynamics does femur length in relation to distance behind the bottom bracket then have? Suppose two riders were biometrically and functionally identical apart from the fact that one has a longer torso. I presume this would result in the seat of the longer rider being set back in comparison with the shorter rider in order to balance the longer rider's relatively further forward upper body CG. Would this not then generate variation in the amount of relative use of key cycling muscle groups (quadriceps, gluteals, hamstring) in each cyclist (e.g. the longer cyclist would have more hamstring/less quadriceps use during pedalling, while the shorter cyclist would have the opposite), due to the fact that the pelvis for each rider will be a different distance back from the bottom bracket despite their identical leg lengths?

I might like to add that I am just returning to cycling after a three year layoff and have just moved my seat forward (it was all the way back) in line with Steve's suggestions. Apart from an initially strange sensation, I now find I am the most comfortable on the bike I have been for years. It will be interesting to see how this works when I begin criterium racing again in a few weeks, as I always felt I lacked power and wanted to drag myself forward on the bike when going hard on the drops, particularly when coming out of corners in criteriums. Although I feel intuitively that my fore/aft position is now much improved, I would appreciate it if Steve could find time to answer my questions above.

Anthony Cook
Melbourne, Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

I expect Steve will have detailed answers for you, but I can point out that the range of motion of the hip has much more impact on muscle activation then does the seat fore-aft position by itself. Your hypothetical long rider might have to have higher handlebars to get effective muscle use than would your shorter rider. If you remember Miguel Indurain on his TT bike, you might be willing to entertain the possibility that higher handlebars are not always a bad thing.

Steve Hogg replies:

Your question is a good one. I'm not a fan of the reductionist view of anything, let alone bike position. An effective bike position is all about achieving acceptable compromises between a number of sometimes contending requirements. The best way to do this is to take a whole of body approach. The assumption you have made in your hypothetical example is correct in my view, providing that extra torso length is the ONLY thing we are talking about. In real life examples that is unlikely to be the case. Human beings are wondrously adaptable. A gent named I think, Neil Sperry won a Nobel Prize in the early '80's for proving that 90% of the brain's activity is tied up in controlling posture and movement. [As an aside,that is where the mistaken phrase "we only use 10% of our brain" comes from.]

Fit and muscle utilization

I read Mr. Hogg's opinion on fit, and it made quite a bit of sense. I've been racing in men's colliegate and USCF road races for about a year now. I've never been thrilled with my fit, and I've sometimes felt it detrimental to my ability to handle the bike. However I didn't understand why on August 2 you said sitting farther forward results in under utilization of the glutes. A priori it seems that muscle utilization would be dependent only on hip, knee and other joint angles relative to the rest of the body, while weight balance would be related to angles relative to horizontal or gravity.

Nonetheless I rode my bike for a bit without my feet on the pedals, and I found that really changed my weight balance and drove home the importance of proper seat tube angle. As a result I've been trying to optimise my weight balance by moving my saddle back based on the teetering in the drops idea, but I've run into a bit of a snag: I can achieve the same effect by raising and bringing back the handlebars relative to the saddle and keeping the bars in the same spot relative to the saddle and moving the saddle back. So how much should I move my seat back, and how much should I raise my bars?

My thought on how to resolve the dilemma on whether to adjust the bars or the seat or both is to try and achieve optimal hip angle for power production and muscle utilization- which presumably are nearly identical conditions. Is there such thing as optimal hip angle, and how can I determine mine, if I have one? My thought is to then rotate the saddle and bars until proper weight balance between contact points is achieved.


Steve Hogg replies:

I have been waiting for the question implicit in your first paragraph for sometime and had just about given up hope. I'm glad that someone reading this stuff has thought about it a bit rather than just accepted unquestioningly or disregarded totally, as they chose.

Niel responded:

Thanks so much for your reply. I was wondering if you could clarify one thing for me. I wanted to make sure that you're telling me that when you slide your seat forward, even if you adjust your bars to be in the same position relative to the saddle and bottom bracket, the sub conscious somehow kicks in and changes your muscle utilitzation, due to the direction of gravity, regardless of whether or not we've put our bars so high that we feel balance. I was wondering if you could explain how or why that is.

As I read your first and second paragraph, moving your seat forward causes over enlistment of the quads, causing tight hip flexors, causing less glute employment, causing more load on the quads, making some spiral of pain. We can observe expirementally that moving the seat forward does cause more quad enlistment, but I'd really like to be able to explain why moving the seat forward causes increased stress on quads.

Also, is it possible to set one's position up such that the gluteus is over used and the quads are under utilized?

Steve Hogg replies:

Before I answer your queries I want to correct an inference you have taken from my previous reply. In your first paragraph your phrasing of the "sub conscious somehow kicks in and changes muscle utilization" doesn't sit well with me. The neurological inhibition that I was talking about, which in that particular case was the hip flexors vs glutes, is a well known neurological/biomechanical principle known as ' Sherringtons' Law Of Reciprocal Inhibition'.

Hot feet

I am a 55 year old successful triathlete having been on 3 TEAM USA teams at the ITU Worlds and a 4 time (soon to be 5) competitor at the Ironman in Kona Hawaii. I suffer the worst case of burning feet when out on long rides (over @70 miles) when the weather is hot and humid(Hawaii). Would a wider cycling shoe be a possible fix. This is not a one time problem but a constant issue on long rides or races. I have 15 years of racing experience.

Fred Clayton

Steve Hogg replies:

You are not really specific as to what you mean by hot feet. Is this localised to a part of the foot or felt over a larger area? First order of business is to check the cleat positioning posts for July 26 and position your cleats fore and aft accordingly. If poor cleat position plays a part in your problem, the info in those posts will cure the problem or minimise its severity.

Knee problems

I am a 37 year old male office worker. I normally commute to and from work daily on my mountain bike. It is only a relatively short distance of 1.5 miles but as I live on the top of a steep hill and my office is at the bottom it helps to keep me fit. I also go out at weekends and on holidays for longer distances from anywhere between 10 to 30 miles but these tend to be on flatter routes.

In August a purchased a new road bike. I am reasonably happy with the set up. The bike is comfortable to ride and it not too dis-similar to my mountain bike in riding position although I have no pedal clips on the mountain bike. I have done several rides of up to 25 miles on the road bike in France and in Wiltshire, England without problems and was looking forward to building this up to longer distances.

On the weekend before last I did two rides of about 15 miles each from my home and since then have been suffering knee pain in both knees. I experienced no pain whilst cycling - this only manifested itself later. The pain is a generalised dull pain and cannot be pinpointed to any particular part of the knee. It feels as if my knees are cold and it is uncomfortable to walk.

There were several differences between my last rides and earlier ones which could have contributed to the problems:

My questions are:

A. Why should I get problems on the last rides but not the earlier ones? Is it a combination of 1,2 and 3 above or is it that I have just done too much too soon or a problem with the set up of the bike the results of which just happened to catch up with me at that time?

B. I have visited my doctor who could find nothing wrong with my knees and just recommended rest. I am taking it easy - no cycling and not much walking. How long is it likely to take before my knees recover and I can start again?

C. When I do start again, what distances do you recommend to build up my knees so that I do not get a recurrence of the problems?

D. Is there anything that I can do to speed up recovery?

Graham Threadingham
Devon, England

Steve Hogg replies:

Firstly, what does ' reasonably happy with the setup' mean?

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